Bonfire Night – Five quick questions with a firefighter on staying safe

Bonfire Night can be one of the best nights of the year for children and young people as they take part in the traditions of eating pie and peas, standing around bonfires and watching fantastic fireworks display, but we also know the very traditions that make Bonfire Night so fun can also present dangers.

Today we spoke to Ian Thompson, the Assistant Divisional Commander at Leeds Fire Station, about the kinds of dangers that Bonfire Night presents and how young people can minimise the risks and have a great time…

What are your top tips for young people wanting to stay safe on bonfire night?

“My best tip for staying safe on Bonfire Night is to stay home and watch other people’s fireworks from the warmth and safety of you bedroom window – it’s safe and it’s cheaper! However if you do feel the need to venture out into the cold the best thing to do is to go to a locally organised event which will be safely managed and will be far more entertaining!

“If you do intend to hold your own back garden bash, please do it safely observing the Firework Code and the instructions on individual fireworks. Set up a safe viewing area, read the instructions with a torch and not a lighter, use the taper to light each firework one at a time in plenty of space and keep the rest in a suitable fireproof container such as an old biscuit tin. Don’t return to used fireworks as they may not have finished, keep your pets safely inside and a close eye on those excited kids.”

Sparklers can be great fun, but they can also be dangerous. What tips do you have for children and young people with sparklers?

“Sparklers can mesmerise the very young who can happily go through packets of them, drawing pictures in the air and writing their names. However, the darker side of a sparkler is that eventually all good things come to an end and they fizzle out. But remember they are still very hot after they have died out and cause terrible, painful burns to the skin so get the kids to wear gloves for added protection.

“The more space you have around you, the safer you are and the more fun you can have. Don’t be tempted to use more than one at a time because there is more chance of getting carried away and having an accident. It’s a bad idea to pick one up if you drop it as you may end up holding the wrong end which could still be hot, so it’s best to leave that one. Once they have fizzled out the best place for them is in a bucket of water to cool them down and then it’s on to the next one.”

What is the most dangerous situations you’ve seen a young person put them self in?

“Although Bonfire Night is a great time and magical for the children, there are obvious dangers when fireworks are involved. I remember the incident last year on TV when a stray firework set off a full display when it was being set up. Luckily no-one was hurt other than a bit of pride, but it could have been so very different.

“The worst injury I have seen was where a firework went off in a man’s face and he lost his sight- as well as being scarred for life. I also remember when a boy was being foolish and thought it would be funny to throw a firework which unfortunately for him went off in his hand blowing off at least one of his fingers.”

For adults looking after children and young people who are worried about their safety, would you recommend people hold private parties or attend public displays?

“Me being a Yorkshire man, I like to get my money’s worth so if I can watch other people’s displays for free I’m happy! Otherwise for me it has to be an organised event which tends to have a better atmosphere and brings the community together at a safe event to watch a professional display which you simply can’t reproduce in your back garden.

“I get a bit disappointed with little pop-fizz-bangs when I have spent a lot of money on a box of fireworks and end up with firework envy when the display is going on in the park down the road and the kids are clinging onto the fence watching their superior show! Organised events are safer, there’s less cleaning up and they are far more impressive so go on, check out the venue for your nearest organised display and enjoy a safer Bonfire Night.”

It sounds like Bonfire Night can be a stressful time of year for the people in charge of tackling fire. Do you get to enjoy it at all?

“Historically Bonfire Night has been one of the busiest periods of the year for the Fire Service and yes it can be disappointing to be away from your own young kids when they are going to a display without you. But we are here to keep people safe in the event of something unexpected going wrong. There have been instances in the past where crews responding to reports of fires have been attacked by youths throwing fireworks, which is a very dangerous and unacceptable thing to do.

“The crews are here to do a job, to help the community and keep people as safe as possible and help those who need our assistance. Having to assist paramedics with injured children or help an old couple out of their home which has caught alight from a stray firework, causing terrible damage to their home and forcing them to stay with family members is never an easy time. Having a quiet night for us around the bonfire period is a real result because it means that some of the hard work we have put in during the school talks and the environmental audits has paid off and we have achieved our goal.”

A big thanks to Ian for talking to us today and we hope that everybody has a safe, child friendly Bonfire Night! If you’re stuck for where to go, there are public displays happening all over the city, more information is available here:  http://www.leeds.gov.uk/c/Pages/SummerOfFun/Bonfire-Night-in-Leeds.aspx.

What are you planning to do this Bonfire Night? Why not let us know on Twitter (@child_leeds) or leave a comment below…

 

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